NHS ‘still dealing with the impact of Covid,’ Rishi Sunak says as junior doctors announce new five-day walkout

9 February 2024, 11:36 | Updated: 9 February 2024, 11:40

Rishi Sunak told LBC News: "We are still dealing with the impact of Covid on the NHS"
Rishi Sunak told LBC News: "We are still dealing with the impact of Covid on the NHS". Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Rishi Sunak has claimed the ‘impact of Covid’ is still affecting the quality of NHS services.

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Speaking to LBC News, the Prime Minister said: "We are still dealing with the impact of Covid on the NHS and the backlogs that has created - but we are making progress.

“The performance of ambulances and A&E this winter is better than it was last winter.

“On waiting lists, we are not making as much progress as we’d like, but waits for the longest waiters have been virtually eliminated.

“We saw in November the waiting list declined by around 100,000 because there were no strikes at all.”

The PM admitted: “On waiting lists, we are not making as much progress as we’d like"
The PM admitted: “On waiting lists, we are not making as much progress as we’d like". Picture: Alamy

“There’s more work to do but the plan we’ve put in place is working,” the PM said.

Read more: Mother, 39, collapsed under her coat and died after seven-hour wait at crowded A&E

Read more: Junior doctors announce they will stage five-day 'full walkout' later this month

Shortly after speaking to LBC, junior doctors announced they will go on strike later this month as their pay row with the Government shows no signs of abating.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the Government had "failed to meet the deadline to put an improved pay offer on the table".

Junior doctors will go on strike for five days later in February
Junior doctors will go on strike for five days later in February. Picture: Alamy

Thousands of medics will now go on strike in England from 7am on February 24 until 11.59pm on February 28.

The BMA has also not ruled out further strike action.

Junior doctors in England staged the longest strike in NHS history in January, for six full days from January 3 to January 9.

BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said in a statement: "We have made every effort to work with the Government in finding a fair solution to this dispute whilst trying to avoid strike action.

"Even yesterday, we were willing to delay further strike action in exchange for a short extension of our current strike mandate.

"Had the Health Secretary agreed to this, an act of good faith on both sides, talks could have gone ahead without more strikes.

"Sadly, the Government declined."

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said planned strike action by junior doctors from February 24 to February 28 showed that they are not "ready to be reasonable".

In a statement, she said: "I want to find a reasonable solution that ends strike action. This action called by the BMA Junior Doctor Committee does not signal that they are ready to be reasonable.

"We already provided them with a pay increase of up to 10.3% and were prepared to go further. We urged them to put an offer to their members, but they refused. We are also open to further discussions on improving doctors' and the wider workforce's working lives.

"I want to focus on cutting waiting times for patients rather than industrial action. We have been making progress with waiting lists falling for three months in a row.

"Five days of action will put enormous pressure on the NHS and is not in the spirit of constructive dialogue. To make progress I ask the Junior Doctors Committee to cancel their action and come back to the table to find a way forward for patients and our NHS."

LBC also learned the devastating story of a mother, 39, who collapsed under her coat after a seven-hour wait at A&E after she went there complaining of a severe headache.

The 39-year-old had been waiting for at least seven hours at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham before she was discovered unconscious under a coat.

'Shocked' staff at A&E have said they believe the long waiting times at the department may have contributed to her death.

The woman first attended A&E in the late hours of January 19 complaining of a severe headache.

She was triaged and observed three times by nurses and while her case was escalated, she was not seen by a doctor before being discovered.

When the mother was eventually called to see a doctor, she failed to respond multiple times, so it was assumed that she had left due to the duration of her wait.

She died on January 22, a few days after she had been transferred to intensive care.

Former NHS trust chairman Roy Lilley told LBC that the case is likely to be “escalated”.

“What will happen now is that the medical director will start an internal inquiry. My guess is they will also bring in an independent doctor from another hospital or maybe one of the royal colleges to look at the processes and protocols to see what happened.

“It will be escalated. It is a reportable event. It will go forward to NHS England and they may well want a further independent inquiry. On top of that, the woman will be subject to a coroner’s inquiry.”

Dr Keith Girling, Medical Director at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “I offer my sincere condolences to the family at this difficult time.

“An investigation, which will involve the family, will now take place and until this has been concluded, we are unable to comment further.”

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

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